How a Terrorist Attack on My Bar Mitzvah Day Led Me to Advocacy Work
“We know how to manage this conflict.”
Those are the words of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyou. I want to talk, for a moment, about my connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The first time I met with this conflict was the day of my bar mitzvah. I had the opportunity to celebrate my bar mitzvah in the capital of Israel – Jerusalem. More than that, it was held at the Western Wall. By the way, that was the last time I felt the stones of the Western Wall, and I will not feel them until there is a respectful and equal mixed section! But this is not the issue. The issue is what happened on the way back to the bus that took me, my family, and some friends to a great restaurant in the west side of Jerusalem.
After my bar mitzvah ended, and I became a man who is committed to the Jewish commitments, there were horrible screams and two gunshots on the way to the bus. A few moments later, we realized that soldiers were shooting a terrorist who had tried to stab them. This man had attempted a terror attack at my bar mitzvah! The police and soldiers removed us from the area.
On our way to the restaurant, I couldn’t think about anything else except this horrible person trying to kill soldiers who were defending me. I thought: what if he had succeeded stabbing them? That one soldier would have been killed, the one who was defending me at my bar mitzvah. Thank God it didn’t happen – but what if?
We arrived at the restaurant. Because the restaurant was small, and we were a large group, the whole place was reserved for me, my family, and some friends, as welll as the Arab chefs and the Arab restaurant’s owner. I don’t know if those Arabs define themselves as Palestinians or as Israelis, but I didn’t care, because I looked at them as human beings. The TV at the restaurant was broadcasting news about what happened, and we didn’t want to hear it. We just wanted to eat and celebrate, so we turned it off. For me, though, it was tough. During the meal, all I could think about was the stabbing.
I knew that this was my time to act. As a Jewish teenager who had just celebrated his bar mitzvah in the holiest place to the Jewish religion, a teenager with a responsibility. I took out my Galaxy 3, opened Google, and started searching for the private phone number of the president of Israel, Ruvi Rivlin.
You can probably tell how innocent I was, as a young teenager who wasn’t aware of anything.
I realized that I couldn’t find the private phone number of the president, but I could send an email to his office, an email that the president himself would read. So I did.
One day, two days, a week, two weeks had past and… nothing.
I sent another email, just to try again. Three days after that second email, I got a call from a woman named Tzipi. She told me that she worked in the office of the president, and that the president had read my email, and he wanted to write me a letter back. I couldn’t believe it! It was amazing. The president of Israel has decided to respond to my email, from all thousands of the emails he received every week.
After two weeks, the letter was in my mailbox with the sticker of the house of the president, and the office of the president, and the logo of the state of Israel. In the letter, the president, blessed me for my bar mitzvah and wrote a message that I will never forget in my life. He wrote, “My generation has failed in its mission to pass to the next generation a better place to live in. You are one of the individual teenagers who has talked to me about the conflict, so please, I give you a mission, don’t fail in my mission!”
After the typed writing, there was a sentence that was handwritten:
“וכתתו חרבותם לאתים וחניתותיהם למזמרות. לא ישא גוי אל גוי חרב ולא ילמדו עוד מלחמה”
“They beat their swords in plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Let nation not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they study war anymore.”
It ended with his signature.
Since then, I've met a lot of Arab teenagers, Muslim, Christian, Druzes, Beduim, and also Palestinians. I do everything I can to prevent an event like what happened in my bar mitzvah, so it will not happen at my little brother’s bar mitzvah in two years. And all of that started from one innocent email to the greatest person in Israel, the president, Ruvi Rivlin.
Does something bother you? Do something about it. Send an email, talk to people, post on Facebook, do everything you can do to not fail in the president’s generation’s mission: Let’s give the next generation a better place to live in.
Oh, and Mr. Bibi? You said, “We know how to manage this conflict." I say: We have to know how to finish this conflict, and fast!
Evyatar Bar-On is from Nesher, Israel. He is spending the summer at URJ Kutz Camp, a Reform Jewish summer camp for teen leaders in Warwick. N.Y.